Definitely. Maybe

I am typing this from the 40-40 office seated on a couch that isn’t even ours. Uhm, no we did not steal it 🙂 These chairs belong to the landlord and although we need the, he set a price that is quite high. Since we can’t afford them yet, we have decided we’ll custom-make our own set of chairs when the shillings trickle in. In the meantime, we are storing the chairs safely. Win-win! Side note: They are really comfy! My legs are stretched out and if my sleep wasn’t for beckoning by reciting petitions, calling an intervention, taking spiritual baths and chanting spells- I’d probably be dosing off by now.

These ‘borrowed’ chairs are a significant change from the mats we used to sit on during meetings. If you arrived early, you could snug yourself a cushion to comfort your behind. If you didn’t, you’d suddenly know the number of bones in areas you did not usually give much thought.

I vividly remember wondering where we’d get the money for 6 months rent before we set up shop. We needed an address. We’d registered the organisation and opened a bank account. Can you imagine before that, our budget depended on how much Banura and I had on our mobile money accounts? We’ve certainly come from far. An office seemed like the biggest step in the world. It was at the time. Thankfully, dad gave me half the amount, and I got soft loans from other friends who were willing to take the ‘risk’. Bless them.

It has been three years since I took a leap of faith, quit my job and staked all I had (and didn’t have) on 40-40; and here we are. My feelings are all over the place. I am happy. I am sad. I am confused. I am emotional.

This period coincides with my date of birth. I am fast approaching the big 30. In a couple of weeks, I will be one step closer. As you can imagine, all this comes with deep retrospect and quite often, regret follows. Thankfully for me, I am too busy musing at how things turned out to even feel remorseful.

See, I have accomplished NONE of the things I thought I would have by now. None. This means professionally, spiritually, relationship-wise and everything in between. Do I sometimes look over the fence, with envy watching my peers’ green grass? Certainly. Do I let that deter me? No. Everyone is entitled some moments of weakness from time to time. No? Now, when Fred purchases yet another piece of land and Joan starts construction of her new house; when Rachel is promoted and Melanie brings her third angel into world, I celebrate them fiercely. We all have different journeys and oh what joy to watch how the stories unfold. My friend Suzan says when I die, the one thing I should leave her in my will is my 7,213 notebooks. I have come to accept that these are, in fact, my only ‘assets’… for now.

I’ll just zero down on two themes from this past year and the two before.

Who are you?

Do you know who you are when you are in different environments? Do you take the time to understand what makes you tick, what annoys, how negative/positive vibes affect you? In my opinion, the best way to figure this out is by being alone for a while and critically thinking about it. *If you haven’t already, please create this time, as a gift to yourself*

This year, I was away from home for 3 months. During that time, I learnt quite a bit about myself. I’ll highlight only one lesson for the post’s sake. The best gift I gave myself was a gift in the art of letting go. Until this period, I’d shunned all opportunities that required me to be away from my people and my work for long periods of time. Even when I applied, I secretly prayed I didn’t get in. Guess what? I didn’t! This time I allowed things to happen naturally. I kept my distance. I was content with receiving updates about 40-40. Many times I was tempted to suggest that things be done a certain way. However, I controlled myself. My way definitely isn’t always the right way. I accepted that even if what I am saying is ‘right,’ sometimes people need to make mistakes themselves so they can learn better. If you can afford to, let them.  I got to watch from the side-lines (something every leader needs) and was very proud of what I saw.

Once you learn exactly who you are and how you flourish(or not) around certain things and people, you are more in control of what you do, whom you let in, what you give your attention/avoid and it can be very liberating.

grow up

What are you doing?

Very close to who you are is what you are doing..or for some, what you should be doing. While I was thinking about this piece, my friend John shared this letter which I agreed with entirely. Do you find yourself wondering what you want to do with your life? Do you feel inadequate or worry that you are ‘running out of time?’ I know many of us do and this fear is often heightened around our birthdays or the end of the year. At least it does for me.

In that letter, Hunter. S Thompson explains that we should pay more attention to who we are and not our goals, because essentially our experiences change us and our perspectives also change. <Look to the man, not the goal> So here we are, counting 4 months to the year’s end and thinking how unaccomplished we are when we should looking at ourselves, our changes, our experiences.

When people tell me they want to leave their jobs or start a non-profit/start-up and thus need my advice; the first thing I do is to assure them that no two stories are the same, might be a bit similar but the variables are diverse. Some people excel as leaders, others are better off following. We need producers as much as we need consumers and the list goes on. That is how we achieve balance.

This brings to mind the story of Irene. Irene believed NGOs are a lucrative ‘business’ and decided starting one would fill a void in her life and also give her a quick buck. When I spoke to her, I explained that her image of Executive Directors driving 4×4’s visiting projects once a month and living the good life wasn’t the full story. Unfortunately, like most people, she had translated 40-40’s media attention to mean great wealth on my part. The first thing she asked when I arrived for our meeting was “Why are you using a boda, don’t you have a driver or something?” I laughed so hard! She was genuinely ‘concerned’ when she found out I don’t earn a 6 figure salary. Dear reader, I know the look of pity all too well and of all the ones I’ve seen, Irene’s is etched in my memory for life. I decided to give her a short class since I have met too many ‘Irenes’ over the past few years. I started unbundling the myth for her bit by bit. In fact, I made a strong case for her to keep her day job. The last thing this country needs is another person deluded by wealth, willing to disguise their greed in a nicely coloured coat. By the way, do not get me wrong, we all need to make a living and indeed good intentions don’t put food on the table; but wouldn’t it be much more meaningful if that which you chose corresponded with who you are?

Once you know who you are and what brings out the best in you, you can easily choose a path that best utilises your personality, skill and true being. I am fortunate enough to have stumbled upon my path, almost accidentally. When I think about it, everything that I am doing espouses who I truly am. My love for people and affinity for children; my attraction to stories and storytelling, planning events and seeing things grow out of nothing. I derive so much pleasure from seeing other people happy and I couldn’t think of a better way to attain it than through what I do.

The truth is that this kind of life can be really challenging, probably even more than the ‘let’s see how this goes’ lifestyle. The satisfaction it brings though, I cannot relate that to any sensation yet.

This month I celebrate another year on the planet, and another year of not having a boss, a regular salary and of course pretending I don’t like shopping 😉 My broad and eclectic experiences have made me who I am and I’m even more ecstatic about the future <also quite scared but the glass is half full>

I started by admitting that I haven’t achieved any of the goals I set for myself way back when, what I didn’t tell you is I am glad I haven’t. I would not trade what I have now for anything.

 “A man who procrastinates in choosing a path will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

Enjoy September and may the last quarter of the year be kind 🙂

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40

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

“40/40, why not 50/50 or 70/30?” These are some of the questions that I have had to answer overtime. First,I laugh, and then begin to share our story. This season is the reason for 40, and not any other number. When you think of it, the Bible did love the number 40 🙂

Four years ago, I sat, as I am now, typing away on a keyboard just a few days after Ash Wednesday. A thought had crept up in my mind the night before and thankfully, I had written it down (write your dreams and ideas people) I would then open a facebook group that would change my life and that of others.

Every February since, I have been reminded of that little dream that found its little feet and started to walk without any knowledge of what lay ahead. I don’t know what you plan on giving up this lent (if anything) but I urge you to go a step further and give something on top of denying yourself certain pleasures. I could sit here and tell you that 40-40 is the place to go and donate but I won’t. Instead, I hope that you can find a cause that is dear to your heart, something you have thought of but never done or simply procrastinated upon. It could be a member of your family who is struggling with a mental illness, a lady in the neighbourhood who has no one, that child you’ve thought of adopting, heck it could even be you that needs saving. Whatever you choose to do, whoever you choose to give, I pray that you’ll find peace and fulfillment.

Google image

Google image

 

“Whether one believes in a religion or not and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”

I have also learnt not to hide under the umbrella of charity. Just because it is what I do, doesn’t mean there isn’t much more good I can do, more of me that I can give.It is something I constantly remind myself. Don’t cross your hands and say, “But I already pay school fees for Mary.” I wonder what would happen if God responded to our prayer with “But I already blessed you last year.” <Forgive the guilt trip> There is so much to share, so many people to forgive (including yourself) and deep cleansing that can be done in different ways. Use this period as an ‘excuse’ to dust those cobwebs. We have an opportunity for transformation within ourselves and our surroundings.

giveI pray that this season is one of great reflection for you. I hope that you can block out all the noise (literal and figurative) and focus on that which makes your heart dance. Jesus’ death and resurrection tells of a great love that is still difficult to fathom all these years later. We continue to learn, to be reborn. We can be ambassadors of that love, everyday in many different ways.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as this but “Happy Ash Wednesday.” May HIS love abide in your hearts for all eternity.

Stand out

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”

Dorothy is unapologetically ambitious. She walks into a room and you know for sure, she has not come to play games. Her aura reeks of confidence and when she speaks, it is simply confirmed. Dorothy will stop at nothing to get what she wants, professionally. If it means stepping on a few toes, so be it. While she may not be the friendliest or most loyal person, you can count on her hard work and willingness to go the extra mile for a project to prosper. Can you think of any ‘Dorothy’ in your life?

I have worked with my fair share of Dorothy’s and if I had not spent so much time concentrating on what they were doing ‘wrong,’ perhaps I would have learnt a thing or two about what they were doing right. I know better now. There is a reason why Dorothy will get another raise while you gossip about her Jimmy choos or try to hate on her four wheel drive, find that reason. While we are not all capable of being ‘ruthless,’ I believe we can all leverage certain qualities that we already have. If you notice that those are lacking, find something that makes you more valuable than the next guy.

Dorothy is constantly finding ways to save the company money. Tell me which boss wouldn’t love that? If you leave the tap running, make all your personal calls using the company line and download the biggest files that ever existed because “these people make so much money, let me punish them,” then perhaps you need to rethink waking up every morning to go this job.

Dorothy initiated end of month dinners where the bosses get to mingle with their employees at the ‘same level.’ Originally, she was given a small budget to work with. She accepted and went ahead anyway. Today, the budget is three times what she started with and teamwork has visibly improved. While her female co-workers are hating on her, (because some women absolutely love to see another woman succeed) she is steadily rising in the ranks and has convinced her boss to sponsor her MBA. Can you get a caterer who charges less than your current provider, with better quality food? Are your workmates complaining about being unable to afford the gym? Can you pitch the idea of bringing a trainer to the workplace instead on Fridays, perhaps? Maybe you can even get the afternoon hours slashed on Friday. Do you know a gifted financial analyst who can break down issues for the average person to comprehend? Can you get him to train your colleagues? These ideas might be generic and a tad simplistic but you know better what your company needs. What can you do to help them get it? If you do only what you are told to do, your salary shall come and every month will look like the next. However, if you stand out, there are chances you will become indispensable. Alternatively, if you choose to move, you will be guaranteed a good recommendation and open doors if you ‘change your mind.’

I am not the most confident person out there but I have taught myself to take small steps towards ‘faking it right.’ I can’t say I have mastered the art but I do notice progress every now and then. Pastor Njoro had this habit of mentioning 40-40 out of the blue during a sermon. That was okay but occasionally he would look around and ask “Esther, are you around, can you stand up?” At that point my legs would fail me. I vividly remember the 4 year celebrations when he asked me to stand up to be celebrated and I got up for two seconds and sat back down. “Who told you I have finished? You need to learn to own this. Stand up while I continue” Goodness! I needed the ground to just swallow me, not me and my belongings, just me, forever. I never did get used to it. He would meet someone and ask “Have you heard of 4040?” Person X: No Him: What? Esther, come and tell your story. It is at that point that my mind would go blank and my lips magically inherit invisible super glue. I had to keep reminding myself to own my trade because no one would buy into it if I was not confident enough to speak up. I still cringe when I am put on the spot and I can’t say I have nailed every aspect of the process but I am trying, so can you.

“It’s your difference that sets you apart not your similarity, stand out!”

These days I am in a room full of mostly strangers and they ask for volunteers, suddenly, I notice my hand going up and I am like ‘What is this?’ ‘Who are you?’ Progress 🙂

For the past couple of weeks, I have had to write recommendations for members of my team (may they get these positions, Amen) and I had to edit and re-edit to stop making them sound too perfect. I was almost that student who wants extra paper in an exam where others can’t fill up one foolscap! Give me the same assignment to write a personal statement or so and I shall be running to one of my confidants to advise on what I should write. I know I am not the only one (Hi you) but I also know it gets better with time.

It is time for us to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to get what we want. Go hard! No matter how honest, intelligent and generally awesome you are, nobody is going to find you in your sleep and whisper ‘Hey, this opportunity is just for you, we await your presence oh mighty one.’

Always a reference point for me this one! Google image.

Always a reference point for me this one!
Google image.

However, if you do challenge yourself to lean in, get noticed for all the right reasons, ask a follow up question, network, network and network, some people may just search for you amidst your beauty sleep.

Go get ‘em!

The Versatile Blogger Award

It is not often that I get to write on Sunday but I thought it only fair to respond to this challenge before life got in the way. Thanks Simon for nominating me. I noticed you ‘stole’ some of the people I would have thought to nominate. I still haven’t quite figured out my ‘lucky 15’ but I shall save it for the end.

7 facts about me…*shriek*

7

Here goes!

#7

When it comes to people/things I love and/or believe in, it is usually all or nothing. When I find myself at the border of either, then I begin to question what I am really doing.

#6

Being a good mother is more important to me than…(insert titles,accolades) <most things>I have seen how the presence/absence of one can impact an individual. I really look forward to that phase of my life.

#5

I have a certain version of ‘OCD’ in some areas of my life.

#4

I am living my dream.

#3

Throw away every communication gadget that ever existed or make 6,327,211 more and I’d still choose real, face to face conversations any day.

#2

I love letters, reading them, writing them, thinking of them..pretty much everything about them. *except when the post makes them disappear :(*

#1

I am repulsed by pride and all its relatives; arrogance, snobbishness, the desire to define one/others by class… The more I interact with braggarts, the further I want to be from that plague that’s affecting them.

Well, this was harder than I thought.

I suspect some of you may already be nominated but I shall go ahead either way. I doubt I will make 15, . Here’s a short(er) list. 7 for 7

  • Brenda *seriously, when did you last write?* Serious dusting needed nooooww!
  • Patra
  • Benjamin
  • Grace
  • Julie No pressure but this I really want to see :p
  • Evelyn– Your blog is m.i.a when it does resurface; hello ^^
  • Portia I can clearly see your site is for football but one can only dream. Humour your ageing aunt, please? 😉

The Rules

1. Thank the person that nominated you and include a link to their blog.
2. Nominate at least 15 bloggers of your choice. When considering a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award, keep in mind the quality of their writing, the uniqueness of their subject matter and the level of love displayed on the virtual page.
3. Link your nominees and let them know about their nomination.
4. Share seven facts about yourself

 

I look forward to reading your facts.
Have a blessed week and exciting February! Go forth and conquer!

X

Humps ahead

Temperatures are now as low as -2 degrees in London. A normal person would probably succumb to flu or cough at most, but no, Linda had to go and attract some other bugs.

After an almost ‘too good to be true’ fortnight, the universe decided that this lady needed to calm down a bit, thereby sending some ailments her way. Unfortunately, she had sped past the sign so all of it came as an unwelcome surprise.

humps

Google image

Monday was deadline day for an important assignment. 5,000 words can seem like a small novel, especially when it is on topics that don’t exactly include one’s interests.She started to feel sick but could not let herself accept that this was happening at such a crucial hour. Denial it would have to be, until further notice.

All the pain and discomfort was put on hold until she clicked ‘submit.’ “It is just fatigue,” she thought, and went to bed with the hope that everything would be okay the next morning. Unbeknownst to her, she would not be able to leave bed the following day.

It was finally clear that Linda would have to seek medical attention but possibly the next day. She freshened up and went on to fix herself the first meal of the day at 6p.m. In the kitchen (that also serves as a common room), sat the excitable , Jack. “Would you like to sit down and have a beer?” he offered. She declined, trying to seem as ‘normal’ as possible. Upon reaching her room, she realised that more people had been streaming in and music was starting to get louder. She had lost count of the parties these undergraduates held every other day. At first, it seemed like a weekend thing but gradually grew into a ‘when we feel like’ tradition. She tried to watch a movie to pass time until she received a message from her classmate. The list for people who handed in the assignment was out and Linda’s name was not on it. Talk about bad luck! She checked the email and indeed her name was not mentioned. Too disturbed to comprehend the situation, she decided to shut out the noise and find some sleep.

She thought of the people around that she could confide in about her illness but did not want any of them to have to leave work for her sake. She decided to send one message to one of the scholars, her new Kenyan friend, Grace. She hoped Grace would offer to accompany her to the clinic. Plan B, would be to ask her out rightly and if she was busy or unable, plan C would be to find it on her own. After sending this text, she closed her eyes.

Morning came as early as 4a.m,Linda  tossed and turned as she awaited daylight. The plan was to stay in bed till enough strength was amassed. At about 9 a.m, she heard a knock at her door. Still groggy and clad in pyjamas, she opened to find a concerned Grace. “I took a shower and came as soon as I read your message,” she said. Phew! Linda felt a huge sigh of relief. Grace consequently left to make them breakfast as Linda got ready.

They both didn’t know the location of the clinic but it was that much better getting lost as a pair. Linda was dizzy by the time they arrived. It turned out seeing doctors was only on appointment except for walk ins that began at 2p.m. They had over two hours to kill but at least there was comfort in knowing they were in the right place.

Time moved slowly until Linda started to notice the students who were coming in. Those registered needed to only mention their date of birth and the receptionists would find them in the system. One by one they walked in “July 2nd 1995, November 30th 1998…”
“Whhaat?!” The ladies began to muse at all those ‘babies.’ Linda played a game where she guessed the years as soon as they walked in. Some looked pretty young but others could fool anyone as being closer to 30 years than the 20 they really were. Time moved faster with this exercise.

Finally the hour came and she saw a nice doctor who understood her condition. Armed with a prescription, they found a nearby pharmacy. She thanked God she had carried emergency money because the bill brought semi-squints. She made a mental note for the 1000th time not to convert to prices to shillings.

They decided to take a bus back and look out for sites on the way to their residence.

bus

Google image

Grace heated up some food for Linda upon arrival as she dashed to her room to make a call to her husband and son.
All Linda could do was thank her endlessly for sacrificing most of her day to take care of her.

This morning the other two Ugandan scholars showed up at Linda’s doorstep. “We have heard the News,” they yelled. She could only laugh as she questioned their sources. “Bad news travels fast, they replied.” C’est vrai.

Grace later joined with a cup of hot chocolate for Linda in tow. The ladies shared tales of their experiences on this journey so far.

Linda found out Racheal had spent Sunday night crying because she missed her son terribly and kept promising him goodies each time they spoke. The son’s father walked out on them last year. Jane’s bosses were not paying her salary for the period she’d spend in London but she was still grateful for the opportunity.

When they left, Linda was immersed in deep thought about everyone’s journey and how nothing is guaranteed. She was reminded for the umpteenth time, how blessed she was.

Although this sickness had come at a bad time and slowed down the pace of her progress, she knew deep down that a testimony was unfolding before her very eyes. All she needed to do was be patient.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

On green grass..

 

I met Doreen at a birthday party recently. We had not spoken in a long time so I chose to walk with her when she decided to leave. She had updated me on the progress she was making over time and I was impressed. Not only was she rising up to senior management at her day job, she was also running a successful side business. Doreen and her brother were in the process of building their mom a house, a development I had only learnt of that night.

When we got to her car, I expressed my admiration for her as an ‘independent woman.’ I told her I could only imagine how difficult it was for her to get to where she was even if I wasn’t privy to the back story.

The turn this conversation took left me flabbergasted, to say the least. “How can you pretend that you applaud my work yet you are the one who is successful? I see you in the papers at work, on facebook when I log onto my computer and then again on t.v when I get home.”
It took me about 10 seconds to pick my jaw up from the ground and another 30 to compose myself. She had blurted out this unexpected response without so much as minimal acknowledgment of the compliment(s) she had received.

In that moment, I wanted to say a quick good night and return to the party. At the same time, I needed to explain a few things about life to this woman. I chose the latter.

I shall use two of the relevant dictionary definitions for success that I found; “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
“The attainment of fame, wealth or social status.”
I believe each of us consciously or sub consciously has an idea of what success means to them.

I urge you to take a minute to think  about what your definition of success is.

Now, if that is done;imagine a world in which there was no society to ‘tell you’ what to do, peers to ‘compete’ with or people to impress. If you had to only make yourself ‘happy,’ would that still be your definition or would you alter it a bit?

As I write this, I am reminded of Mrs. Bucket(pronounced Bouquet) and her antics in the sitcom “Keeping up appearances.” While it was funny, it is sad that many of us spend our lives like this woman who did everything to ooze class and wealth despite the reality of her less than royal lifestyle.

bucket 1

 

bucket 2

As if our spines were not already fickle enough, the emergence of social media has made it that much more difficult for (especially) young people to water their grass diligently. You need not look too far to find the ‘greener grass’ that shall keep you up at night if you so choose. Photo of a new car on Instagram followed by a long mushy post complete with the picture of a huge diamond ring on perfectly manicured nails when you cross over to Facebook. You think you have had enough so you run to whatsapp  for the silly jokes. Alas, everyone in your group chat is congratulating your friend upon her first class Master’s degree, in engineering no less. Will you ever catch a break?

The answer is no. For as long as you don’t learn to appreciate what you have and be happy for others, yours shall be a long life of dissatisfaction.

At the end of the day, we are all human beings, undergoing human experiences.

Joan got married to a ‘successful’ man whom her father approved of and their marriage lasted all of 2 years. She is a divorced single mother at 26.Mark and Becky have been in a relationship for 10 years. It is now a long standing joke that they should not get married lest they ‘mess it up.’

Julius works for a multinational company, great salary, big car with a chauffeur, allowances you can only dream of; but he tells me he has never felt so useless in his life. Basically his job is being done by him and 5 others. Joe, on the other hand has a start up that essentially provides rent, food, transport and the occasional drink. He boasts that he has found meaning in his life but if in 3 years things stay the same, he’ll flee.

Lisa’s son, Max is a product of a one night stand. After a life of having everything handed to her on a silver platter, he was her first real reality check. Her parents disowned her and she has no contact with her son’s father. Nonetheless, she quickly learnt to ‘hustle’ and discovered talents she did not even know she had. She is now an interior designer and almost-full-time mom who manages her own time and schedule. This little boy was once described as a mistake but he gave her a new lease on life. In fact, he saved her.

The list goes on and on. I am sure you and many people you know are living a life completely different from the one they or their parents had for them. That’s just how it is.

Imagine your life and its complexities, from the day you were born. Now, what makes you think that person who is ‘better than you’ has no challenges? They do, you may just never see them; just like not everyone who ‘knows’ you has heard the story of how you went hungry and slept on the floor when you hit rock bottom.

I think it is healthy to look over the fence once in a while and say hello to the neighbour, even help him carry his groceries. As long as when you get home, your conversation isn’t “I wonder whom Jack had to rob to build such a house” but rather “Honey, we are blessed to have such a good life and we should keep working hard to make it even better for the kids,”

X

In the beginning

When Linda dreamt of travelling the world, she figured it would be only for pleasure; to relax, learn about different cultures, meet several people, make friends out of strangers, experiment with various cuisines, write and then live to tell the tale. As with most dreams, the package was considerably different when it arrived.

Her chance at a London experience showed up in form of a scholarship that she never imagined she would get but that is a story for another day.

Linda’s departure was mostly heartwarming with a hint of pain that was safely tucked away for future reference. She spent time with her loved ones, most of whom passed on a word of advice or a gift and lots of laughter. Others shared something even more precious, time. The distractions were quite welcome as she did not have too much time to think about the changes that were yet to come.

At the airport, she shocked herself when her friends left and no tears welled up in her eyes. Progress, she thought.

She took a corner sit and drank a cup of tasteless overpriced coffee. It wasn’t long before her stomach reacted and begged to be released from that misery. It could have been the anxiety, the terrible coffee or both. She did not care. She needed to be physically prepared for the 15 hours ahead. “Will there be enough leg room, will I manage to catch some sleep, shall my neighbour snore?” were some of the questions running through her head.

When she spotted Maureen*, whom she had not seen in years, she smiled to herself. If Ian had been there, he would have started a long speech about how she knows someone in every part of the world. She walked over to Maureen and tapped her shoulder. Maureen turned around and her face could not hide the surprise. They caught up for a while before an announcement was made. Boarding would begin shortly. They exchanged contacts and Linda caught up with the other two Ugandans with whom she was traveling to London.

Helen* was wearing a ‘kitenge‘ dress and open shoes, much to Linda’s surprise. Was this an attempt to bask in the glory of African heritage in the meantime or did she not have any warm clothing? Linda decided to pose the question as she could not imagine how Helen hoped to deal with the winter upon arrival in the UK. Her fears were confirmed when Helen explained that she planned to shop in Doha during the two hour layover. Linda started to spell out that the prices would probably be outrageous but quickly realised that her counterpart was quite unruffled. She then offered what little garments she had in her hand luggage and went on to scroll through the available entertainment.

The intern was an easy choice as she needed something with a simple story line and a chance for laughs. Alas, the laughs came with tears too. It was difficult to tell if the emotions were entirely brought on by the movie or if it was simply the spur that the heart needed to face its imminent situation.

The hours flew by, laced with drama from the little toddlers sitting next to her,some depressing music from Adele and failed attempts at sleep. The minutes before landing at Doha were a complete delight, everything sparkled like a collection of jewels. All she could think of was the vastness of God’s empire and its boundless beauty.

The two hour layover confirmed the fears about airport prices. Helen found a pair of jeans at $200. She settled for a pack of socks at $21. Linda caught herself a little too late when she  started to ask Helen why she had not shopped in Downtown Kampala where things would have been much cheaper. There was really no use crying over spilled milk.

The group grew larger when the Ugandans got to meet the group from Kenya (which is the biggest) and the lone Tanzanian. They were reunited, a year after their first encounter. Odd hugs and handshakes were exchanged as everyone tried to remember each others names and grab a seat pending the connecting flight to Heathrow.

Linda later found a seat further away, prior to boarding. She met Isaac,* a Nigerian who had traveled back home for the holidays and was returning to work in London. He tried to convince her that Uganda had pyramids until they agreed that he must have meant Sudan. He was quick to offer tour guide services when he learnt it was Linda’s first time in London. Mmmhh.

The remaining journey was longer, ‘bumpy’ and did not have enough distractions. Attempts to sleep as late as 3a.m were futile but Linda did not stop trying and frantically looking at the clock. Alas, there was no winning.

At 6.40 a.m, after what seemed like decades, the plane finally landed at Heathrow. This marked the final step, in the beginning of this new journey for 15 East Africans, many of whom are parents, continuing with their Masters’ degree, several miles from home.

In the following weeks, we shall stalk Linda and all her ‘maalo’ as she meets people,discovers places and deals with her very first winter.

Google image

Google image